OPINION

On taxi strike, Greek census, bailout, illegal properties

On strikes

I am privileged to be a resident on Crete following my retirement in the UK.

I love Crete and the Cretan folk, the majority of whom work very hard. But what I fail to understand is this suicidal attitude to strike during the tourist season. I am referring at this time to the taxi drivers/owners. Surely they must realise how much damage is being done to the tourist industry. I know for a fact that following the blockage of the airports by the taxis, hundreds, yes, hundreds of visitors will not return next year or in following years. So, what will the taxi drivers do then? Blame the Government? Of course they will.

Yes, they may have a justifiable complaint about the Government?s U-turn, but there must be a better way of showing their disagreement. Waiting until the tourist season is over would have been much more sensible. People then would have more respect for them. Business owners that I speak to think that they are crazy and are ruining so many businesses at the busiest time of the year.

I can foresee that Crete will no longer be a tourist destination. Then what will we all do?

Michael Evans

Agios Nikolaos, Crete

Misunderstandings

Nick Kanellos (letter, July 27) questions whether Greece will ever be able to repay her EU bailout loans. Greece’s productivity, he observes, lags significantly that of other EU countries. The observation is correct, but that only means that it is easier for Greece to achieve the growth necessary to service her debts: All she needs do is emulate best practices in better-performing economies.

Mr. Kanellos also speculates that Greece’s sub-par economic performance may be due to societal or cultural factors which are difficult to overturn. The evidence suggest otherwise. Greece led the OECD in economic growth during the 1950s, 60s and 70s. The enterprising folk who chalked up that impressive record have not suddenly become slothful and sybaritic. They made the mistake of electing a socialist government in the 1980s, which turned Greece into a mini soviet republic. During that lunatic decade, the private sector in Greece was deliberately undermined by the state so that it could be brought under state control; government spending rose from 30% of GDP to 50%; and the public debt soared from less than 40% to 110%, making Greece vulnerable to adverse economic shocks such as the one she is now experiencing. EU transfers and implicit guarantees (Greece joined the EU in 1981) enabled subsequent governments to postpone the day of reckoning, until the recent financial crisis brought that game to a halt.

Greece can recover her former self, provided she clears the Augean detritus that has accumulated over the past thirty years. This requires an overhaul of the dysfunctional Greek public sector, not a transformation of the culture or character of the Greek people. It is eminently doable and, for the sake of her children’s future, Greece must do it.

Basil Zafiriou

Ontario, Canada

Taxi drivers block port of Piraeus

The taxi drivers and their actions today seem like they are a group of people who show the world our worst side. These are actions of a rude, uncivilised group who only think of today with no regard to the consequences of their actions.

Having five cruise ships in the port with tourists anxious to visit our country can be a blessing or turned into a curse. Tourists are a fickle group who spend their vacation money expecting to have a good time in a safe place and they share their memories with anyone who will listen.

If only 1,500 passengers from each ship brave the streets of Athens today at least 15,000 foreigners, potential visitors to Greece, will hear the story embroidered many times over.

Arriving in a port where the streets are coated with oil and seeing lines of demonstrating taxi drivers is not a ?Kodak moment?. Cruise ships who carry these passengers to different ports are not stupid and they can find other more welcoming ports to drop anchor in.

Since the troubles in North Africa, ports in Israel and Turkey have been luring cruise ships over and welcoming the tourists and the money they leave behind.

Having cruised for an average of 50 days per year during the last 10 years, I can tell you that no one wants to get out of a ship when one sees such a display at the port. Perhaps next year cruise ships will bypass Piraeus altogether for more peaceful welcoming ports and even today?s demonstrators will feel the sting.

Greece is almost off the cliff as it is and its economy needs a boost. A boost not from foreign bankers who expect a hefty return. A boost from investment and growth.

The taxi owners know by now that we can still function without them. The bottom did not fall out yet and people still make it back to their homes at night.

However when the dust settles and even this crisis passes, they may even realise that their stance hurt them more than us.

Monica Lane

Florida USA

Call for dialogue on illegally built homes

As they say a picture is worth a thousand words. Who would not have wanted to have a villa in a remote lovely place away from the troubles and pollution of the city?

The government is willing to accept partial legal status of illegally constructed homes in exchange of fines since the first and foremost thought is ?How do we go about cashing in now from what we did not want to know in the past??

Does anyone believe for a moment that these houses were built while many employees of the municipality, electric company, water company and other hard working civil servants had no idea or didn?t profit from bribes to provide utilities and turn a blind eye? No one can build a villa, no matter where they manage to do this, without people seeing the movement of trucks and activity.

Why won?t the government allow the homes built in archeological sites or forests to be legalized? Because they are holding out for higher fines or because they plan to raze these structures?

How can anyone build a structure on an archeological site without the ministry of antiquities knowing about it? How can anyone build a house within a forest and no one responsible for our forests has a clue? Were they all on the take?

Where are the ?responsible people? who were paid for so many years to do their job?

Oh, I forgot, perhaps either retired in a safe peaceful place or downtown demonstrating for their salaries and hefty pensions…

Monica Lane

Flordia, USA

Census readings

The issue facing Greeks is one of optimism vs. pessimism. Young people for far too long have had nothing to look forward to. Job prospects are too bleak, skyrocketing housing that is unaffordable, etc. etc. Getting married and having children is not a leap of faith but something based on confidence and optimism that one can control one?s destiny. The system has weighed young people down to the point of submission.

Lastly, I would remind Greeks of the old saying, ?A baby is God?s opinion that the world must go on?!

Mike Vlassos

Washington DC